Giusto deserves nod, with caveat


Bernie Giusto deserves re-election Ñ and he needs redirection. Multnomah County's sheriff is a consummate cop and policy-maker. But he sometimes fails to maintain appropriate separation between his personal and professional lives. And his decorum occasionally falls short of what the public expects from the county's No. 1 law-enforcement officer.

If voters give Giusto another four-year term in the May 16 election, we'd like to see him focus on his strengths as an officer of the law and administrator, and we'd like to hear less about his activities outside the office.

As for official accomplishments, Giusto can point to many in the term just ending. His unrelenting quest for additional jail space has resulted in new beds at the county's Inverness facility while also creating momentum for finally opening the unused Wapato jail. Despite the ongoing lack of adequate space to house offenders, Giusto has increased the number of bookings in the county, thereby making sure those charged with crimes suffer some consequences for their actions.

Between 2003 and 2005, the crime rate dropped in Multnomah County, and Giusto attributes the trend in part to the new booking policies. The sheriff also has done a commendable job of building partnerships with other police agencies to give taxpayers more bang for their law-enforcement investment.

The place where Giusto hasn't made many friends is with the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners Ñ where relationships with three commissioners have ranged from fiery to frosty. Another failure, by Giusto's own admission, is the overuse of overtime pay within his staff, which the sheriff ought to rein in as he approaches a new term.

Giusto has nominal opposition in this election Ñ Donald DuPay, whose last law-enforcement experience dates back to the 1960s and '70s. Even with a stronger opponent, Giusto's active managerial abilities would be hard to match.

While we don't question Giusto's professional expertise, we hope he recognizes that law-enforcement officers must be models of good behavior. Giusto's past four years have brought embarrassing episodes and revelations, including the allegation that he intervened on behalf of a 'close friend' who had made accusations against her husband.

Even while running for re-election, Giusto continues his 20-year-old penchant for being linked publicly to women in controversial situations. Citizens should award Giusto with another term, but they should insist that their sheriff conduct his personal and professional life with discretion and dignity Ñ and not create titillating distractions.